Research shows that less than half of the UK population has a will. However, if you die without having a will (known as dying intestate) then the consequences can be dire for your surviving family members.
Drafting a will is a relatively straight forward process. This guide is designed to explain the basic principles.
Why is it important to make a will?
A will is a legal document that states your wishes for the distribution of your property and assets (known as your estate) when you die. If you die intestate, the Rules of Intestacy will govern how your estate will be distributed.
What constitutes a valid will?
Under section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, in order for a will to be valid it must be:
- in writing
- signed by the testator
- the signature is witnessed by two witnesses at the same time
The will also be made voluntarily and by a person of sound mind, otherwise it has the potential to be challenged in Court.
What is an executor?
Executors are the people you appoint to administrate your will following your death. They are responsible for submitting your will to probate. They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate.
Executors can also be beneficiaries of the will.
Can I make provisions for my children’s’ care if I die before they are adults?
Yes. In your will you can appoint Guardians for your children and make arrangements for where and with who they will live with and provide for them financially.
Do I need a Solicitor to make a valid will?
Not necessarily. However, making a will without legal advice can lead to mistakes and/or lack of clarity. If you have complicated finances or many beneficiaries, it is highly recommended that you obtain professional legal advice. You can find a list of solicitors specialising in wills and probate here.
Do I need to update my will?
Yes. If you get married or enter a civil partnership your existing will is automatically cancelled. You should also update your will if you get divorced, have children or by a property.